Spotlight: Puffin Reimagined
By Amy Evans and Lucy Roberts
The Puffin Reimagined project comprises six art pieces released earlier this year, where artists reinterpreted classic stories published by Puffin. The artists who worked on this project came from diverse backgrounds and were at different stages in their careers. In this article, we focus on four of these works that bring fresh takes on Puffin’s classics for children.
Xuetong Wang – The Wizard of Oz
Wang’s illustration for The Wizard of Oz almost resembles a film poster in the way the characters are layered over one another. While much of the design uses pastel colours, the items that the characters most desire stand out: the Scarecrow, for instance, holds on to a red brain, while a black heart is drawn on the Tin Man. There are a lot of references to the book in this design, with the flowers likely representing the poppy field that the characters pass through, the clouds perhaps alluding to the cyclone that brings Dorothy to Oz and the cowardly Lion blushing and turning his head away.
Olivia Daisy Coles – Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
Coles’s reimagining of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland features the recognisable tea party scene from the book, as well as many of its most iconic characters: Alice herself, the Mad Hatter, the March Hare and the Dormouse. The design mainly features bright primary colours, as well as white and a darker green. Alice’s yellow dress distances this design from other popular interpretations of the story – such as the animated Disney version – and recalls the first illustrated editions of the tale, where Alice’s dress was coloured in yellow. The blue of the sky in the background really stands out, as does each character’s outfit. Small details, like the movement of the Hatter’s drink as he waves it around, the crumbs on the plates and the designs on the teapot, make this illustration feel as if it is capturing a moment from the book – we are witnessing the tea party in progress.
Ricardo Bessa – The Little Mermaid
The Little Mermaid, for most, likely conjures Disney’s iconic Ariel, with her bright red hair and green tail. However, Ricardo Bessa’s dreamy reimagining was inspired by a specific literary image from Hans Christian Andersen’s tale: “The sun rose red and glowing out of the water and seemed to bring life to the Prince's cheeks … He was like the marble statue down in her little garden.” The red glow of the sun gently reflects on both characters’ skin, while the expression on both faces deviates from the gentle, peaceful colour scheme: the Little Mermaid wears an anxious expression while the Prince looks pained – and yet, the serene colour palette demonstrates that all will be well. Ricardo Bessa draws inspiration from his childhood in Portugal, but also from comics, mythology and nature. The illustration is altogether a mature rendering of a childhood staple, recentring the tale in an older reader’s life.
Em Mortimer – Anne of Green Gables
Em Mortimer’s approach to the Puffin Reimagined series blends multi-media illustration with punch-needling. Anne of Green Gables is considered a children’s classic, one that brings comfort to young readers, but also to those who read the story as a child and are confronted with it again in adulthood. Mortimer explains that they wanted to contain Anne’s world within an embroidery hoop, and their use of vivid colours and varying textures prevents the scene from feeling limited by its physical space. While Anne herself does not feature in the piece, she is represented in the small trinkets within the boat: her hat, books and a bunch of flowers represent both her personality and the objects she reaches for most within the novel. Rather than letting the protagonist’s absence go unexplained, Mortimer describes the scene as “one of the first things Anne found unseen wonderment in.” Just by looking at Mortimer’s work, you can imagine that Anne has already dashed off to explore outside of the embroidery hoop.